Search for USF coach unclear after cancelled deal


In the first attempted hire of USF Director of Athletics Mark Harlan’s tenure, which officially began Monday, USF was reportedly forced to nix a contract after it was signed.

Around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, USF cancelled a contract with Manhattan coach Steve Masiello to become the Bulls’ next men’s basketball coach due to a “discrepancy” in the background check, conducted by search firm Eastman & Beaudine for a $60,000 fee.

USF fans expressed shock and disappointment in the search process overnight on social media, but order seemed mildly restored Wednesday morning, when ESPN reported the “discrepancy” was that Masiello never received his degree from Kentucky, confirmed by a Kentucky spokeswoman.

Contrary to his resume — and bio at each of his coaching stops — Masiello did not receive his bachelor’s degree in communications from Kentucky, where he played basketball from 1996-2000.

Harlan isn’t expected to comment on the search process until a coach is hired. Meanwhile USF, which requires its coaches to have at least a bachelor’s degree, released a statement on the matter.

‘’Through the verification process it was determined the candidate’s credentials could not be substantiated and therefore he did not meet the requirements for the position,’’ USF Associate Athletic Director for Communications Brian Siegrist said. ‘’The national search continues and USF looks forward to introducing a new coach at the appropriate time.’’

Manhattan, left with a decision to make on Masiello’s future at the school, released a statement around 5 p.m. on Wednesday that it had placed Masiello on leave while he reviews his degree status at Kentucky.

Whether Masiello’s previous employers — Manhattan, Tulane and Louisville, where he assisted his mentor and Cardinals’ men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino — actually attempted to verify his credentials is unknown.

While Pitino told ESPN he was “shocked” to learn Masiello never graduated, it’s unclear where USF will direct its search from this point.

USF’s deal with Masiello was reportedly slated for five years at over $1 million per year, which was roughly the same contract USF had with former coach Stan Heath, which the school fired on March 14.

USF has interviewed at least one other candidate, Mercer coach Bob Hoffman, who confirmed to The Telegraph, located in middle Georgia, that he interviewed with USF on Monday.

Hoffman led Mercer to at least 24 wins in each of the last three seasons and upset No. 3-seeded Duke as a No. 14 seed on Friday, before losing to Tennessee on Sunday.

Among the other names speculated are Florida assistant John Pelphrey, Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua, Massachusetts coach Derek Kellogg and Louisiana Tech coach Mike White.

Pelphrey replaced Heath at Arkansas and was fired after four seasons before being hired by Billy Donovan as an assistant at Florida, currently the No. 1 team in the country.

Antigua is the head coach of the Dominican Republic men’s national team, but more notably has been an assistant coach to John Calipari at Kentucky since 2009, where he’s been a part of an NCAA Elite Eight, a Final Four and a National Championship team in his first three years there.

Kellogg has coached the UMass Minutemen for the last six seasons, where he’s won more than 20 games during each of the last three. Kellogg was previously an assistant under Calipari at Memphis from 2000-08.

White has won 57 games in the last two seasons at Louisiana Tech, and was an assistant at Ole Miss for six seasons before that.

The likelihood of USF hiring a young coach with rising popularity is high, as the four speculated candidates range from 37- to 45-years-old.